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Dog Vitamins and Supplements: Get the Facts

WebMD teams up with veterinarians to talk about vitamin safety, dangers, and what to look for.
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5. Do supplements contain the promised nutrients?

Again, it depends. ConsumerLab.com, which tests products for its industry certification program and sells subscriptions to its reports for consumers, surveyed glucosamine/chondroitin supplements for pets and humans. Sixty percent of the pet products failed, compared to 25% of those manufactured for people, says Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com.

The National Animal Supplement Council also checked its members’ joint support products and found that 25% didn’t meet label claims, president Bill Bookout says. “We require companies to do an investigation, find out why that is, and take corrective action.”

ConsumerLab.com tests of three probiotic supplements in 2006 showed that only one contained enough viable organisms to be effective. “In the pet area, we’ve seen the quality is lower than it is for human supplements,” Cooperman says.

6. Who regulates dog vitamins and supplements?

The FDA oversees animal supplements. A 2008 report from the National Research Council, a scientific research unit of the nonprofit National Academies, concluded there was little information on the safety of pet supplements.

The National Animal Supplement Council is addressing some of these concerns. The council sets labeling guidelines, requires adverse event reports for problems with supplements and tests some products to check whether they contain the amount of ingredients claimed on the label. The group has also required its members - about 90% of the industry - to adopt new standards for manufacturing by June 2010.

But "the quality of these products is a major, major concern,” Boothe says.

7. How should I choose a supplement?

Here are tips from veterinarians and those who test supplements or work in the industry.

  • Look for a brand that specializes in one area, or that has commissioned clinical studies of their products.
  • Read labels. Know the name of the ingredient you’re looking for, so you won’t be deceived by sound-alikes.
  • Look for a lot number on the product, a sign that the company has set up quality control checks.
  • Look for a contact number for the company on the label. Call and ask who formulated the product, what expertise they have, and how long the manufacturer has been in business.
  • Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true, such as promises to alleviate diseases like parvovirus, cancer, and hip dysplasia.
  • Look for certification from an organization that has independently verified a supplement’s contents.
  • Be cautious about giving human supplements to dogs. Some products, such as garlic, can be dangerous for dogs.
  • Know the seller. Cooperman says ConsumerLab.com has found fewer problems with supplements sold at vet’s offices, although they do occur.

 

8. What about supplements in dog food?

Check the label to see how much of an ingredient is actually in the food. Some adult dog foods contain glucosamine/chondroitin but because of state regulations that restrict the amount, it’s usually not a therapeutic dose.

A prescription dog food, on the other hand, may contain therapeutic levels of the supplement. Other dog foods might contain botanicals, such as cranberry, to ward off urinary tract infections or DHA to boost cognitive development in puppies.

“From an efficacy and safety standard, if it’s in a pet food, I have a greater level of confidence,” Boothe says.

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Reviewed on May 01, 2010
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